Post #435 The Night of the Wolves

November 18, 2015 at 11:37 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #435 The Night of the Wolves

When I was in 7th or 8th grade, two friends and I decided to spend the Christmas holiday by going camping for a few days before The Day.  We had a few weeks off, nothing to fill it with except sitting home and sleeping late, anticipating the big day, and watching Christmas specials on television.  It was T who came up with the idea.  G, whose dad was a Marine like my dad, volunteered to get the tent through the base, so I volunteered to get some stuff as well.  We started writing lists of things we would need and how we were going to transport it.

We got permission from our parents, although they were uniformly skeptic that we’d last the full four days we were planning.  We started amassing the vast quantity of junk we thought it would take to survive.  G’s dad volunteered to take us to our campsite in his truck.  Hours long discussion finally yielded the “perfect” spot to camp.  It was near where T and I lived, walking distance to either house if there was an emergency.

Sonoran Desert (2)

Alexander the Great’s plan to cross the Alps on elephants couldn’t compare the planning that went into our camping trip.  We even decided what we were going to do each day.  Most of that was categorized under “exploring” because that was the big thing then.  We’d all just read Tom Sawyer and Journey to the Center of the Earth.  We lived in middle of the Sonoran desert; our campsite was a tiny “mountain” range just the east of the city we lived in.  It was all tailor-made for a few days of adventure.  The fact that we didn’t know the first thing about what we were doing never entered into it.  We had lists, we had plans, we had approval from our parents, we had all the gear.

One day just before vacation started, we were going over our lists and I looked up at the other two.

“What are we going to eat?”

That stopped us.  Our moms, and occasionally our dads, took care of all that.  We’d never considered it.  We knew the basics.  Three meals a day for four days equaled twelve meals.  We knew we’d be cooking over a camp fire because that’s how you did it when you camped out.  Eventually, we decided we’d each just take care of our own meals and let it go at that.  What we really meant was we’d tell our moms and take whatever they packed.

Then T sneezed and rubbed his nose.  No big deal.

On the day we were supposed to leave for the camp out, he showed up at my house with the sad news that his mom wouldn’t let him camp out after all since his sneezes turned into a cold.

We were all for calling the whole trip off, but T said he could go help us set up and stay a while, but he had to get back home before it got dark.  So we did.  G’s dad droves us the three miles to our camp site with me giving directions.  I’d been there many times before.  We unloaded and he said goodbye and we were on our own.  T and I lived three miles from the spot we were standing on, but we could have been three planets away.  We felt cut off from everything.

First challenge, the tent.  We found just the right spot for it and started setting it up.  None of us had ever set a tent up before this, but we’d watched our dads doing it.  We had an eight person, canvas monstrosity which was standard military issue.  We had it mostly put up but were completely flummoxed by the six short aluminum supports, and by the fact that the tent was up, but sagging, no matter how tight we pulled the guys.  Then a gust of wind passed by, the tent inflated with a poof, and we instantly saw where they went.  Finally, the tent was up, the gear was stowed, the sleeping bags were laid out, and the fire ring was laid out.  Now we had to find fire wood and explore!

We ranged over hill and canyon grabbing every stray stick until there was a huge pile of wood, enough to keep a fire going for a week, we thought.

T had to leave just after that.  We walked him back to the edges of civilization, the asphalt road we drove in on.  Waving goodbye, G and I squared our shoulders and trooped back to the tent, picking up every stray stick we saw.  We wanted to be prepared.

As the sun started going down, we lit the fire and watched the lights blink on across the valley.  We were high enough that we could see unobstructed all the way to the horizon.  We had hot dogs and beans that night and water.  We stayed up telling ghost stories and jokes, bad mouthing teachers and students, discussing important topics like taking care of animals and the earth.  Finally, at full dark, low fire, and utter exhaustion, we turned in at around 8pm.  I went out like a light.

Only to be shaken awake at some point in the night by G who was yelling about wolves trying to get into the tent.  I could hear snuffling and growling outside the tent but I knew my desert.

“There aren’t any wolves around here.  Probably coyotes.”

“They’re gonna get inside and eat us!” he yelled.

“No they’re not.  It’s tough canvas.  It’s probably dogs from a house nearby.”

“Why are they trying to get in?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe they followed our scent.”  I was so tired I didn’t really care.

I put my hand down to brace myself and felt the snout of some animal through the canvas floor.  It backed off and jerked away from it.  But I was really very tired, so I crawled back into my sleeping bag and went to sleep.

The next morning, I woke up and G was already  getting the fire ready.

Sonoran Desert (1)

“Hey,” I said sleepily.  “I see we’re both still not eaten.”

He grinned.  “Yeah, I had it all worked out.  Since your feet were closest to the door, they’d go for them first, which would give me time to get my knife and kill them.”

“In the meantime, there I am with no feet.  Why didn’t you get your knife ready while you were figuring this out?”

“I left it outside.”

We took stock of the campsite.  It was obvious we’d been visited by something during the night.  There were scratch marks on the dirt and stone around the tent and the campfire ashes had been rooted through.  The tent sagged again and no amount of tugging on guy wires made it look as pristine as the day before.

I broke out a can of hash and heated it with a couple of eggs.  I ate every last bite, feeling full and warm on the very chilly morning.

About noon, my dad showed up to check on us and asked if we were ready to head home.  We were.

We just threw everything into the back of his truck to sort through once we got home.  Once the campsite was cleaned up, we left without a backward glance.

I called T when we got home to forestall him from trying to visit the campsite.

“Did you have any trouble last night?”

That sounded suspicious.  I’d known him a long time.  “Not much, why?”

He started laughing.  “My dad told me a trick to pull on you guys.  I put chicken skins under the tent.”

He laughed loudly at the string of curse words erupting from my mouth.  I don’t normally swear, but this was one instance that it was warranted.

It wasn’t the last time T and I went camping together.  It always seemed to be T and I and one or two other friends who drifted in and out over the years.  He never did the chicken skins under the tent trick ever again, though.

(me near the campsite decades later)

Sonoran Desert (3)



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